Decatur, Alabama Page8
Photos/Text courtesy of Steven Hippensteel, AL
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(Sept. 2010) Enlarge Traveling salesman building. Interior, facing rear

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(Sept. 2010) Enlarge Coach house converted into garage: The back portion of this building was originally the coach house for the Dancy-Polk Inn. You can see the original wood siding but the building has been heavily modified for current use

        

 

(Sept. 2010) Enlarge Stop 06: "a Place of Importance. Union Leadership at Decatur
 
The Decatur crossing of the Tennessee River was used extensively by Union forces. In the Fall of 1863, elements of Major General William T. Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee passed through Decatur on their way from Vicksburg to Chattanooga. Union commands from the Army of the Tennessee spent the spring of 1864 camped at Decatur, and were inspected by Major General James B. McPherson and Sherman on March 25, 1864. On March 8, 1864, Union Major General Grenville M. Dodge and XVI Army Corps permanently occupied Decatur and constructed a pontoon bridge and substantial fortifications. You are near where the southern entrance to the pontoon bridge was in 1864-1865. After the Army of the Tennessee joined the Atlanta Campaign in late April, 1864, a permanent garrison commanded by Colonel Charles C. Doolittle of the 18th Michigan Infantry, and consisting of 1,500 infantry and seventeen pieces of artillery was established here. This garrison would substantially reinforced in October, 1864. The Federal army briefly withdrew the garrison to reinforce Nashville on November 23, but Decatur was re-occupied by Major General James B. Steedman and a division of U. S. Colored Troops on December 27, 1864. Decatur was occupied by Union forces until the end of the war. The last known date that Federal troops were in Decatur was June 30, 1865. After the war Grenville Dodge would go on to serve as Chief Engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad, responsible for the construction of the transcontinental railroad

(Sept. 2010) Enlarge Stop 06: Burleson House (circa 1836)
 
This Greek Revival mansion belonged to Dr. Aaron Adair Burleson and his wife, Janet, during the Civil War. Part of an original 778-acre land grant, the brick home covered by Flemish bond, features 18-inch thick walls and contains one of the significant Federal period interiors in North Alabama. The iron fence work surrounding the property is original and Union soldiers used it for drying blankets as seen in the accompanying photograph. The original gates, however, are missing and are thought to have been taken by soldiers for use as fire grates. Before the war, Burleson served as the first President of the Tennessee and Central Alabama Railroad which became part of the Nashville & Decatur Railroad - a vital north-south transportation link. Burleson served as a physician with the rank of Major in the Confederate army. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston is thought to have stayed in the home while reorganizing his army here in March, 1862, although his headquarters were actually located in the office of the nearby McCartney Hotel. During the occupation of Decatur the Burleson family was well treated, and “got along with their guests with minimum friction,” according to relatives. Janet Burleson received passes to travel between the lines until she was caught smuggling quinine to injured Confederate soldiers, which she
accomplished by putting the medicine in holes bored into her surrey and sealing them with beeswax. When Union Major General Grenville M. Dodge ordered citizens to evacuate Decatur in early 1864, the Burleson family’s possessions were piled in the street and burned. Among those possessions were books from Dr. Burleson’s library. A volume of “Byron’s poetic works, “ stolen from the fire heap by a Federal soldier and then confiscated by Lieutenant L. N. Weeks of the Federal army, was returned to the family in 1900. The home was sold in 1869 to Jerome Hinds, a former Union soldier from Illinois. It was here that Hind’s niece, Grace Hinds, was born. She later married Lord Curzon, who at one time was England’s Viceroy of India. After the Hinds’ occupation, the home was used as a boarding house and hotel before standing vacant until its purchase in 1895 by R. P. McEntire for use as a private residence. The home remains a private residence, and the privacy of the family should be respected

      

(Wartime) Enlarge Burleson House

 

(Sept. 2010) Enlarge Burleson House

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